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On Zenyatta’s Farewell: Remember the Mares

Zenyatta at KeenelandDespite the delays and the freezing weather, Zenyatta garnered a large crowd to say goodbye; it speaks volumes about her appeal to know that people came to stand in the cold and dark – not to see her race, just to see her, briefly – before she goes to the farm to begin her new career.  And perhaps they are wise – while her connections have vowed to continue to provide updates, previous history suggests that once a great racemare becomes a broodmare, they all but disappear from view.  Rachel Alexandra didn’t even get a sendoff, and while her ‘diary‘ had a brief update in November, the video and image updates are a thing of the past.

News on the marvelous Ouija Board has become little more than an annual photo with her latest foal and Makybe Diva’s website is down; while it’s true there may not be as much to say on individual mares and foals compared to the extensive details stud farms list on their stallions’ many progeny, there’s no reason to avoid something along the lines of seasonal updates – to whom will they be bred, what are their foals up to, recent photos and the like would all be welcome information.

A few years ago, on a visit to Lane’s End (also Zenyatta’s new home), it was mentioned to me that Miesque was ‘out in a field’ with her latest foal, but there was no way for the public to have a look at her (or even to see some recent photos).  While it’s entirely understandable that security and safety issues would keep mares and foals a bit further from general access, the fact that one of the greatest racehorses of all time was so near, but essentially invisible, was thoroughly disappointing.  And although there would be somewhat complicated logistics involved, it seems that it would be entirely possible to arrange certain visiting days for some of the more famous mares – a number of British racing clubs make visits to both training facilities and stud farms, and there is not infrequently the chance to see some of the mares and foals on these visits.  Members of Elite Racing Club have the opportunity to check in with mares such as Soviet Song on regular visits:

Members’ involvement in the breeding programme isn’t restricted to the reports in the newsletters or the excellent viewing material on the videos – every Member has the opportunity to visit the mares and foals and these visits are extremely popular. There is no admission charge for Members.

I would propose a similar scheme for US-based mares – owners, in conjunction with stud farms, could offer memberships that give a level of preferential treatment beyond that of the regular farm tour – including the chance to see those mares and their foals at prearranged times. Membership might also include regular email updates and photos; while it’s very pleasing that The Blood-Horse recently went out with a camera to see what Octave was up to (and I hope they provide updates on other mares in the future), a membership-driven organization could rightly expect more regular news and events.

Zenyatta’s send-off shows that there is an audience for such a setup; it would be wise of racing and breeding to keep these people engaged over the long-term.  Let’s hope her retirement brings about a paradigm shift in how great mares are viewed (literally and figuratively) in their second careers.

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